My Focus RS Needs a Change in Suspension Set Up | Porsche Club of America Autocross Impressions

I discovered the strengths and weaknesses of my suspension setup in my Ford Focus RS.

October 13, 2018 I headed to the BB&T Center for another autocross with the Porsche Club of America – Gold Coast region. Once again I am out there to exercise my driving skills and test the setup on my 2016 Ford Focus RS. This time around, I kept the DSC controller in my car paired up with my Steeda adjustable rear sway bar and stage 1 93 octane tune by Tune+. I decided to run with the tune this time, as I was competing against some friends in the Non-Porsche class instead of my normal B Street SCCA classing (remember kids, cheaters never win).

This time around, I’m running against 15 other competitors including a top local driver piloting a Honda S2000 CR. In the Non-Porsche class, I came 2nd to the S2000 CR and beating a raw time of another competitor in a BMW Z4 M Coupé, that I am always 2 seconds behind in most of the local autocross events. Part of my success I attribute to the course setup, the RS’s GKN Twinster torque vectoring system, and the freshly repaved parking lot that left it a bit greasy.

Don’t let my advantages let you think that I dusted the competition. I was still +2.572 seconds behind the S2000, CR and had a prepped CAMC S197 Mustang nipping at my heels by +0.089 seconds. The BMW Z4 M Coupé fell behind to me by +.358 seconds, as a result of some slipping around and spinning out on one of his runs. These results made me want to look a little bit harder at my setup and driving style.

Reports of onlookers and corner workers were telling of the stiff rear suspension again. I was still in Tri-pod Mode. The car is three-wheeling into hard turns. Some could argue that this is a good thing for cars needing front end traction into turns to help relieve understeer and gain grip to speed out of turns. While that mostly applies to front wheel drive cars, I’m doing a disservice to the engineers at GKN by not letting the torque vectoring give grip to all 4 corners of the car. Sure, the AWD system is smart enough to send more power to the other wheels, but more grip = more power and faster times. This brings me to my conclusion about my setup.

My Ford Focus RS is too stiff in the rear. I will have to set the rear bar to the soft setting, or sell it and just get a stiffer front sway bar. If I decide to still keep with the rear bar, I will probably have to adjust the track settings on the DSC Controller so stiffen up the front even more (if it’s even possible) in Sport mode for autocross. Soft will be more forgiving to the rear and let the Twinster system manage the rear power more. I think the track mode should still be reserved for the higher speed sweepers and higher speed corners that a road course can provide.

 

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DSC Sport Controller Autocross Comparison #2: Different Yet the Same

On September 23, 2018 I went to my local autocross club (ERSCC) event. Not completely convinced with my results from my last time autocross testing the DSC Controller for my 2016 Focus RS, I decided to keep control testing the stock controller vs the DSC Sport suspension controller. The results I got this round was similar and different at the same time. Contradictory, I know, but let me explain.

I changed up my testing variation this time around. I started with the DSC controller installed in my car on the first run and then alternated to the stock controller, opposite of what I did last time. We also changed locations of the BB&T Center parking lot that is normally used for autocross. For this event we ran on a different lot, less beat up with less undulations that our club was normally accustomed to here.

So here’s the timed results:

Run 1 (stock) Run 2 (DSC) Run 3 (DSC) Run 4 (stock) Run 5 (DSC) Run 6 (stock)
51.415 DNF 47.343 47.754 49.217(1) 46.300

I alternated controllers from stock to DSC this time. On Run 2, we had some timing difficulties and got a re-run for Run 3, which is why the DSC was used twice in a row. Run 5 I encountered a cone penalty which added 2 seconds to my time, which potentially gave me the best time with the DSC controller.

I received some feed back from friends and other spotters on the course near the beginning of the slalom stating that I entered “Tri-pod Mode”.

tripod

The car was three-wheeling during the transition from a left hand sweeper into the longer slalom on the course. This is normal during these types of transitions on an autocross course, especially with front wheel drive type vehicles, but I think this was also more pronounced due to the Steeda adjustable rear sway bar I have installed.

Let’s get back to results. So my results were the same as my first autocross test with the suspension controllers, that my lap times improved fairly consistently (ignoring the cone penalties). This time, I didn’t get to have 3 runs on each controller, but the best time I received was paired with the stock controller. I’d have to say that this, was probably more of a result of my amateur level of autocross driving, because each run I noticed I was slower in different corners of the course. I’ll have to concentrate on improving one section at a time for the next time I’m out there. Overall I’m still not convinced that handling is decreased with the DSC Controller as others on the FocusRS.org forum claim.

I’ll have another chance to review and compare again this weekend at two different Autocross events. Let’s see if the results will remain different, yet the same.

DSC Sport Module Worth it for your Focus RS?

I finally had the chance to take and test the DSC Sport Module for my 2016 Focus RS at my local autocross.

IMG_20180429_101741.jpg
Although I don’t tout myself as the fastest or the most experienced autocross driver out there, I can hold my own and consistently take the upper 25% in PAX standings. (more about PAX)
I wanted to see what kind of benefits the DSC Sport Module have for the stock dampers for the Focus RS to make it more active damping based on the car’s ECU inputs for G-force, braking, etc.

I used a similar technique that I heard on a car podcast with some auto journalists sharing how they test performance parts and changes on cars. I did a on/off replacement of the stock control module and swapped with the DSC Module every other run, starting with the stock module. The autocross group I run with, ERSCC, allowed us to drive six runs for that day’s session.

The placement of the control module in the Focus RS isn’t in a bad spot to remove and replace. It takes a matter of seconds for me to swap parts due to the fact I already have my interior bits unscrewed and just need to pry apart and snap it back together in the hatch area.

The course was a pretty fast one, integrated with two 180 turns, and two slaloms(one short 3 cone, and a longer 6 cone pass). The average time was between 40-41 seconds between all the drivers that day. The parking lot we ran on is known to all the local autcross clubs to have dips, expansion cracks, inclines, declines, sandy debris, and pebbles all over. It makes these courses interesting to see how one deals with weight transfer through all the corner transitions, which I think is great for testing out the DSC control module on my Focus RS. Anyways, on to the good stuff, the data.

For all of the runs I ran the car in Track Mode, ESC off, and Sport mode for the dampers. The Focus RS was running 18×8″ OZ Racing Omnia Wheels with Yokohama ADVAN A13C 245/40/18. Here are the results:
Run 1 (stock) : 42.423s
Run 2 (DSC) : 42.277s
Run 3 (stock) : 41.846s
Run 4 (DSC) : 41.792s
Run 5 (stock) : 40.259s Video
Run 6 (DSC) : 39.916s Video

As you can see, I wasn’t very consistent with the elapsed time for each run, but consistent with improving my times as I learned to manage the course after every sequential run. So in this case, I’ll break down the improvement times for each run with their respective part installed: Stock vs DSC comparing the first with the second, and the second with the third run respectively (run 1/run, run 3/run 5 and run 2/run 4, run 4/run 6)

Stock time decrease
Run 1 and Run 3: 0.577s
Run 3 and Run 5: 1.587s

DSC
Run 2 and Run 4: 0.485s
Run 4 and Run 6: 1.876s

The data isn’t very conclusive, but again, shows some sort of consistency. Comparing the delta of the first two runs with the stock module vs the DSC module show a half second of difference between the two. Continuing the trend, comparing the second set of times show an improvement of at least 1.5 seconds but a little bit more for the DSC. That last delta for the DSC module, I believe shows more my driving adjustments to the course and also going “balls out” for the last run rather than any changes to the module.

I honestly didn’t notice too much of a difference in my inputs of the suspension, as I was concentrating more on getting a more smooth run to make up time in the slaloms and try to beat some of the fastest and more experienced drivers in the club.

So, in conclusion, I have no conclusive evidence, except I need to learn how to drive in autocross courses better. haha.
But really, I think for the limitations of the stock dampers for variance in change is what is really holding back this module to becoming a huge improvement for performance applications, but for daily driving use, I believe in my experience has shown much improvement.